Imagine your computer keyboard was rigged to send wireless signals to a cyber-criminal who was able to determine what you are writing, who you are emailing, and what your passwords are.

They then use this information to potentially steal money from you, or worse still, your identity.

While it may sound like something out of a James Bond movie – it is real, only there is no 007 to save the day.

Thankfully however, there are Cyber Security Specialists who can and do stop this type of malicious attack every single day. And, as Commonwealth Bank recently discovered, there is plenty of exceptional emerging cyber security talent coming out of Australian universities.

Earlier this month CommBank hosted its first ever Virtual CommBank Cyber Prize ceremony, recognising talented students from across five different Australian universities, including UNSW, RMIT, University of Sydney, Edith Cowan University and Monash University.

Commonwealth Bank’s Chief Information Security Officer, Keith Howard, said the awards – now in their fifth year – were borne from the understanding that quality cyber education leads to much better outcomes for all Australians.

“At CommBank we view cyber security as a team effort, and this is an excellent example of business and academia working together to tackle the skills shortage and support emerging talent – but equally for us to be inspired by the next generation of cyber professionals.

“We are committed to supporting not only our own talent pipeline, but that of the entire Australian digital economy for generations to come.”

It is clear that Australia boasts a strong pool of emerging cyber security talent, with some of this year’s winners developing cutting edge technology and platforms despite still studying the craft.

UNSW winner, Sam Lazarus, has built a testing bed that allows interrelated computing devices, which transfer data without human involvement, to be tested more easily for vulnerabilities. Or, in layman’s terms, he made a platform that solves for an ongoing privacy concern. Why? Well, because and by his own admission, he finds cyber security “fun” and “compelling”.

“It’s a game that doesn’t end,” he said.

“It’s complex, there are always new things to learn, and there are dire consequences if you get it wrong. I find it fascinating that misconfigured computers could be compromised and taken over by an attacker. It’s quite spooky really.

“Cyber security is compelling and I like doing what I can to help people defend themselves.”

Winners of the CBA Cyber Prize received a $1000 cash prize and, in lieu of the face-to-face ceremony normally held in Sydney, students were treated to virtual masterclasses from CommBank cyber security experts.

UNSW award winner, Kaylen Payer said: “It’s so awesome that CommBank was able to bring this group of students together (albeit virtually) in the middle of global pandemic to celebrate their passion for cyber security and education achievements.”

CommBank Cyber Prize 2019 winners:

  • Raymond Li - UNSW
  • Ryan Fallah - UNSW
  • Kaylen Payer - UNSW
  • Adam Yi - UNSW
  • Sam William Lazarus - UNSW
  • Madeleine Abed -UNSW
  • Amir Kashapov – Monash University
  • Ian Duc Nguyen - RMIT
  • Jure Brence – University of Sydney
  • Aleksa Sarai – University of Sydney
  • Igor Radmilovich - ECU
  • Aganze Matembela – ECU